It's time for Virtual Chronicles
Retronauts has a long history of being very grumpy about Virtual Console and other classic game rerelease platforms. We have, shall we say, a philosophical disagreement with Nintendo (and other platform holders) about how game history should be preserved and commoditized. They say "slow-feed a la carte drip at premium prices," we say "exhaustive catalog similar to iTunes."
Some traditions are worth keeping alive, which is why I'm kicking off Virtual Chronicles: An ongoing look at Virtual Console, PSN, Good Old Games, and whatever other means by which companies try to sell us old games yet again. In light of Nintendo's recent addition of VC to the Wii U system, it all seems almost relevant again.
Honestly, while I'm not crazy about the glacial pace at which the Wii U VC is already proceeding, I do think the new system is probably the most interesting thing to happen to reissued games in a long time. Yes, games are distorted and fuzzy on the GamePad's screen; yes, it's infuriating that all the VC games we bought on Wii have to be played through the Wii emulation shell rather than as native apps until they show up on the Wii U shop. Nevertheless, I'm all in favor of the Wii U Virtual Console... and I really hope the system bucks its downward momentum and manages to stick around long enough to deliver on its potential.
Wii U's game changer, not surprisingly, is the Miiverse integration that comes part and parcel of every game that launches on the system, including VC releases. You might even be able to convince me that Miiverse integration makes the agonizing trickle of VC rereleases worth the wait.
Sure, Miiverse is basically just an integrated message board built into the system... but that's OK. The addition of Miiverse to these games suddenly makes them social in a way that even Let's Plays can't accomplish: Videos are a broadcast, but Miiverse creates a conversation. People get to brag about their accomplishments, lament the tough parts, show off their scores, gush about their favorite parts, show off weird glitches, and more. For people like me, who take any excuse to draw dumb doodles, it provides a welcome excuse to do precisely that --
-- which has helped turn my umpteenth playthrough of Mega Man into a different experience than I've ever had with the game. Anything that can freshen up a game you've been playing for 25 years and know inside and out has to be doing something right.
Of course, you can do these things on any forum, but the fact that this feature is integrated into each game and allows instant screenshot posts makes Miiverse by far the most convenient and most centralized format for this kind of socialization. I also find the level of haughty arrogance on Miiverse to be considerably lower than on most classic gaming-oriented social venues; people are goofing around and sharing their amusement with very little pretense, and it's a nice change of pace from the usual Internet snark.
It's a shame people are being slammed for using Miiverse the way it's intended by people who apparently have forgotten that we all start our gaming careers as fairly clueless individuals. Gaming communities have evolved over the years from small knots of kids sharing secrets in the school yard or after church (or whatever) into a decentralized network of tuned-in players. Where some laugh mockingly at the "Y KANT METROID CRAWL" meme, I think it's fantastic. I remember being baffled by games occasionally (e.g. the completely undocumented second menu of adventure scene items you need to access to complete The Goonies II) and back in the day hitting that kind of wall meant you'd have to cool your heels for months or hope you got lucky and stumble into an answer. Now, you can simply suck up your pride and ask for help from people who are playing the game alongside you. I can think of plenty of times Miiverse would have come in handy during the 8- and 16-bit era....
Plus, "Y KANT METROID CRAWL" prompted me to give the album Y KAN'T TORI READ for the first time in 15 years, and you know? Some of those songs are pretty good. So consider this a double victory for Miiverse.